There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new lows in etiquette we’re reaching with our cell phones. While I’m confident no Modern Mrs Darcy readers are going to get dragged away in handcuffs for felony-grade breaches of etiquette, now is still a good time to review how to handle that cell phone with class.
Have Some Self-Discipline
The gadget is not the enemy–it’s just a tool. And an individual can choose whether or not to use that tool in any given moment. We need to know what our priorities are, and have the self-discipline to choose the most important thing in any given moment.
Cell phones are an ever-present temptation–you’ve got to get control over it (and not the other way around).
Have Some Respect
It’s just a phone–but we send powerful messages with the way we use it. Our actions speak to our priorities. So when you text during family dinner, what you’re saying is, what’s on this phone is more important to me right now than you guys.
We don’t have neutral encounters with others. Every encounter we have with another human being either builds them up or tears them down.
Have Some Empathy
Are you the one talking on that cell phone in the coffeeshop? Try and imagine how those around you perceive you as you carry on your conversation. Do they perceive you as discreet? Or do you seem loud, disruptive, or rude? Try to see your actions through the eyes of others–and if you don’t like what you see, save the conversation for later, or take it outside. (Or even turn off the ringer when you walk in.)
Are you the one listening to that loud woman on her cell phone in the coffee shop? Don’t assume she’s clueless and rude. You’ve probably taken a call at an inopportune time–and you probably had a good reason. Maybe she does, too. She may have left a sick baby at home, or her 41-weeks-pregnant sister could be on the line.
I don’t like the trend of leaving phones on the table at gatherings so we’ll be able to see the caller ID, texts and emails. It makes me feel like the back-burner girl. But if my friend leaves her phone out so she doesn’t miss the doctor’s call with test results–that’s okay with me.
And if you’re in a place where a ringing phone would intrude on the atmosphere–turn it off.
Have Some Grace
We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives. Don’t make rash judgments about others because they’re using their phones when you think they shouldn’t be. Yes, that dad is taking a call during his child’s ball game, but don’t assume he’s a workaholic jerk–if he wasn’t reachable by phone, he may not have been able to get out of the office to be there at all. Have some grace.
Have Some Perspective
You are not required to respond just because your phone rings/flashes/beeps. It’s (usually) okay to be unreachable. (I always ask myself, What if I was in the shower? I wouldn’t answer it then.)
And don’t be a vigilante-etiquette-enforcer. Have some perspective: shooting cold stares at others because they’re being rude with their cell phone is–rude. Don’t do it.
Have Some Guts
If someone is bothering you with their gadgetry usage, don’t give them the evil eye. Whether they’re having an ear-splitting conversation in public or texting at family dinner, tell them it bothers you and politely ask them to stop the offending behavior. I know this is not easy to do. Do it anyway.
And remember–that phone is just a tool. It’s up to you to use it well.